“You have to carry the fire.”
I don’t know how to.”
Yes, you do.”
Is the fire real? The fire?”
Yes it is.”
Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”
Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.”
January 1st marked the second anniversary of my full-time employment at TTAC, and my third as a writer for the site. Since then, I’ve served under three different E-I-Cs, watched popular writers come and go, made an effort to read every single comment, return every email, meet readers in person and act as the liason between our owners at VerticalScope and the rest of the staff. On January 1st, Jack announced that in a short time, I’ll be taking over as Editor-In-Chief, but I somehow managed to miss the post entirely, as show above.
This year also marked my completion of a “Triple Crown” of sorts, where I managed to get on the bad side of each of the Detroit Three. To be fair, my run-in with GM occurred in 2010, but it ended up setting a pattern that fully manifested itself at TTAC.
In 2009, I was an intern at a now defunct start-up car shopping site called VLane. As part of GM Canada’s early outreach to online “influencers”, I was given the chance to drive a 2010 Camaro V6 RS. At the time, the Camaro was praised to high heaven by the Detroit Free Press and the buff books. The car was a turd, and I said so. When GM Canada angrily called my editor, he stuck up for me – a remarkable act of courage, given that I was a nobody and my review could have “compromised VLane’s relationship with a valued partner”. The review even attracted the attention of some more prominent blogs, who wanted to know how my review could be so negative, when all of the mainstream reviews were so enthusiastic about the car.
Four years later, I experienced the exact same sequence of events when I drove the new Jeep Cherokee: I sampled a highly anticipated new product and was the lone voice of dissent amid a sea of uncritical reviews. In both cases, I was vindicated. Not long after the Camaro was released, the tide of popular opinion turned, and the press began to report unfavorably on it. Chrysler took the courageous and unprecedented move of indefinitely delaying production of the Cherokee to iron out flaws with the 9-speed transmission, one of the major criticisms that I leveled at the car. Vindication is satisfying for about a second, but doesn’t offset the frustration that comes with having to defend your findings when they are incongruent with the rest of the herd.
When Ford decided to blacklist me from their press fleet because of my MKZ review, I was grateful to see that TTAC readers banded together to take Ford to task on social media for their punitive action against the site. Your efforts were sufficient to attract the attention of Ford’s global public relations team, who quickly ended the moratorium. I cannot tell you how gratifying it was to know that the B&B were willing to go to bat for myself and the site, and use the collective power of our voices against a PR machine that was trying to silence us.
This spirit of honesty and independence will continue when I assume the title of Editor-In-Chief, whether it’s one month from now or one year from now. I have never so much as spoken to Robert Farago, but I intend to keep alive his legacy, by reporting The TRUTH About Cars, no matter what it may cost us in financial resources or “access”, the great stick that the auto makers use to keep journalists “on-message”. Meanwhile, I will strive to keep learning as much as I can about the design, engineering, manufacturing, wholesale and retail sides of the business, building on the lessons taught to me by Ed, Bertel and Jack.
To paraphrase Bob Lutz, I will be “often unpopular, never in doubt.” I will always be honest, and never afraid to admit I’m wrong. I will continue to, as Cormac McCarthy put it, “carry the fire”. It still burns white hot within me. I hope you can all see it.